Congrats! You got the job offer. But the salary isn’t quite where you want it to be. Follow the tips in this post to negotiate your compensation with confidence. You work hard—you deserve to be paid your full worth.
Why is salary negotiation important?
It’s obvious we’d all like a pay bump to fund our lifestyles and goals, but negotiating means more than just upping a number. Salary negotiation is necessary to get paid what you’re worth—and in general, employers systematically pay certain groups of people less. It’s your duty to negotiate your salary to the market value of your labor and experience to help close the pay gap.
Gender and racial pay disparity hugely affects the US workforce. Each year, we recognize “Equal Pay Day,” which signifies how long into a year a woman needs to work to catch up to the earnings a man in the same role earned in the year before. For instance, Equal Pay Day in 2019 occurred on April 2. However, black women don't reach Equal Pay Day until August 22; Native American women reach Equal Pay Day on September 23; and Latina women won’t reach it until November 20. This translates to between $500k and $1 million in potential earnings lost over the course of a woman's lifetime.
Common Fears About Negotiating
Many of us worry about negotiating and how asking for more money will reflect on us and shape a hiring manager’s view of us. To put those fears to bed, first we need to acknowledge them.
Fear #1: If I try to negotiate, my offer will be rescinded. I don’t want to take that risk.
Fear #2: If I try to negotiate, people will think I’m being selfish or not a team player.
Fear #3: If I try to negotiate, people will dislike me before I even start at my job.
Fear #4: I’m happy with this salary—it’s more than I expected! I don’t want to look greedy.
Do any of these sound like things you’ve thought about before? Regardless, none of these are reasons why you should not negotiate your salary. There are ways to navigate and ultimately overcome these fears to make sure you’re paid what you deserve and feel good about your place in the organization.
5 Secrets for How to Negotiate Your Salary with Confidence
There are certain strategies to use when negotiating your salary. Follow these tips to understand how to go about asking for more money (or perhaps other benefits if the budget can’t budge).
1. Employers are expecting a negotiation.
Chances are the managers have some room within the hiring budget to come up on overall salary—it’s unlikely they’ll give you the best offer the first time (if you’re in an industry outside of typical collective bargaining unit structures). Your employer is considering their bottom line but wants to give you an offer they think is fair enough you’ll take.
This means you need to ask for more money and credibly make the case for your value informed by your corresponding market rate. Quantifiably define and put a number on your value. Use websites like salary.com, payscale.com, or other compensation survey data in your industry to understand how someone of your skills, accomplishments, and caliber is paid at market rate. These sites are the most objective, as they use employer-reported data and more accurately quantify salary versus benefits.
2. Employers will see salary negotiation as a conversation.
Negotiating isn’t a quick confrontation. Instead, it’s a back and forth conversation that may take place over days or even a few weeks. This can be based on how many parts of the offer are up for debate or what kind of dialogue needs to happen internally within the organization to change the particular terms of the agreement. Parts of this discussion may be in person, over the phone, or via email.
3. Respond to social cues in the conversation proactively.
If you feel tensions rising (defensiveness), sense resistance, or get an unexpected response while discussing your salary, shift the conversation. Ask questions that will provide you with key information to keep you in the strongest negotiation position possible. When you learn more about where the other side is coming from, you can use that information to strategically respond. This is ultimately a conversation to show yourself as an ally, demonstrate your excitement to take the position, and get in agreement on what it will take for you to join the team.
Consider something like, "You seem surprised about the request I just made. Could you tell me a little more about that?"
Perhaps, "While my take home salary is most important to me right now, I am open to continuing this negotiation. Could you talk about what parts of the compensation package might be most appropriate to discuss?”
4. Get comfortable with moments of silence.
During a negotiation, some people can get so anxious that they get in their own way. Money and salary can be hard topics to discuss. That being said, when sharing your salary requirements, say the number and stop talking. Resist the urge to fill the silence. If you get nervous about a long, awkward pause, you’ll likely talk yourself out of your own negotiation. Let the hiring manager think and respond to your counter. Though allowing silence can be uncomfortable, it’s a necessary part of the process to get what you want.
5. Consider other forms of compensation in addition to salary.
Sometimes money can be tight and the organization gave you the best offer they could. Maybe the budget a hiring manager is given is very strict. However, oftentimes there are many other aspects of compensation (benefits) where there may be more flexibility outside of the hiring budget you can discuss. For example, consider requesting additional PTO, subsidized transit, or free professional development.
You can do this. As a society, we need to talk more openly about compensation and the value of our labor. By negotiating, you’re doing your job to continue this conversation and get paid what you rightly deserve.